West Virginia’s tourism industry has experienced quantum growth since the late 1960s, when whitewater rafting began drawing attention, guests, and investment into the state. The development of the interstate highway system and upgrading of transportation infrastructure (such as the building of the New River Gorge Bridge), also begun at that time, provided an integral component for further expansion of the industry.
Creative entrepreneurial thinkers conceived snow skiing in West Virginia’s mountains, the rehabilitation of properties into small inns and restaurants, a contemporary craft industry, recognition of the state’s claim to America’s Best Whitewater, and recognition of our terrain as the basis of a world-class outdoor recreation industry, including mountain, rail trail and road biking, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking.
Tourism development in West Virginia has featured a valiant combination of bootstrapping entrepreneurship, unflappable determination, creative adaptation, and resourceful promotion of existing facilities. Lacking capital for development, some tourism businesses have assessed what they had to sell, and promoted it regardless of whether it was “ready for prime time.” This strategy can be effective in startup phases, but to mount a tourism industry that competes in the greater American marketplace, providing viable careers and broadscale economic development, it is necessary to determine what markets a region wishes to cultivate and create the infrastructure to serve them. This requires tourism industry education and substantial capital investment.
In the midst of excitement about West Virginia’s notable achievements, it is sobering but necessary to do a “reality check,” to gauge how the state is perceived as a tourism destination in relationship to other states in its geographic region, and to another state that is similar in geography and demographics.
National research on travelers’ behavior and opinions conducted by D. K. Shiflett & Associates (DKS&A) of Falls Church, VA in 1998(1) indicates that in comparison to travelers to Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Arkansas (West Virginia’s competitive set), travelers to West Virginia were the least satisfied with their experience. The DKS&A report, drawn from responses to 45,000 monthly mailings to carefully selected test market groups of representative socio-economic strata, yields data pertaining to market assessment, visitor profiles visitor satisfaction and value ratings. The report states that in 1998, 49% were highly satisfied with their stay, and 46% believed that the destination offered high value for money spent.
In comparison, the DKS&A report states that overall, approximately 58% of the nation’s travelers were highly satisfied with their experience and approximately 52% felt they received high value for their money. Of all the states in the competitive set, North Carolina received the most favorable rating for satisfaction and value. Arkansas and Pennsylvania received relatively high value rates, while Maryland received the second highest satisfaction ratings.
How should West Virginia’s travel industry interpret these statistics? The research indicates that West Virginia’s core base of overnight leisure travelers come to visit friends and family. Tom Dewhurst of DKS&A says that people who travel to visit friends and relatives tend to give lower satisfaction ratings. They are not as likely to spend money on top quality lodging and restaurants, and because the numbers are spread across the entire state of West Virginia including those areas that are not developed for tourism, the averages tend to be lowered.
The “drivers” of satisfaction and value include such items as lodging experience (quality and price of room), restaurant experience (quality of food and service and price), quality of signage, availability of information, general friendliness and helpfulness of people, price of gasoline, price and quality of attractions, convenience of design, and convenience of banking facilities and other services.
“West Virginia still has some perception problems in the nation at large,” Dewhurst says, an opinion echoed by Colleen Stewart of The West Virginia Connection, a receptive operating company located in Parkersburg. Both Dewhurst and Stewart agree that once visitors are introduced to regions of West Virginia that are more highly developed for tourism, the perception of satisfaction and value increases markedly.
The development of tourism infrastructure along the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike Byway presents an excellent opportunity for carefully planned development that will meet the needs of well-considered markets. New public/private models for investment, development, marketing and promotion can be developed here that could be beneficial for the State of West Virginia, the region and the nation.
Current and potential users of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway are examined in more detail in Chapter 10 Marketing. The range of types of visitors to be expected include
Heritage and cultural tourists such as:
Outdoor enthusiasts and ecotourists, especially those drawn by the Monongahela National Forest, including
Travelers or drivers touring the roadways:
When the byway is designated, signed and promoted, businesses and organizations can expect to see an increase in
When they have been invited through such marketing strategies as media relations, advertising, promotional packages and cooperative cross promotion, brochures and Internet, guests will expect hosts who welcome them, and meet their needs and expectations created by the marketing strategies. They will expect facilities on par with their standard of living and with other promoted tourism facilities they have experienced in the United States. Although much of West Virginia’s appeal is based on its quaint, old-fashioned ambiance, the quality of services and materials such as bedding, linens, furnishings, and style of presentation must be at least comparable or superior to the norms in other tourism regions if the industry hopes to increase its satisfaction and value ratings.
“Getaway” travelers are often singles or couples with a wide age range. They can be enticed to visit the region via the scenic byway in search of rest and relaxation, a change of pace and scenery, and a refreshing glimpse of another lifestyle or culture. They may be outdoor recreationists or cultural tourists. Often they are interested in a variety of experiences and will be responsive to different types of unique authentic experiences, interesting interpretation, and quality services. If they are responding to articles they have read, broadcast media they have seen or heard, or advertisements in various media, they will have higher expectations that must be met in order to capture repeat business and build the region’s reputation as a good travel value. Customers for a new, relatively unfamiliar destination earned through publicity and promotion will expect professional service in hotels and restaurants, well-planned tourism facilities, and conveniences. The potential for cultivating this market depends on how much capital and creative energy is invested in developing facilities that appeal to this market, and the level of consistent, professional promotion that sells that development.
To satisfy the needs of families, hands-on activities and action-oriented facilities are recommended. Child-friendly accommodations and restaurants are a must to cultivate return visitors. Entertainment activities for children are important, both in addition to and as a part of age-appropriate educational interpretation. Play stations for children that incorporate opportunities for learning about culture and history should be developed along with adult information. Perhaps specialists in family tourism such as Dorothy Jordon of Travel with Your Children, Inc. should be consulted regarding development plans along the route. Opportunities for children to safely leave vehicles to visit observation areas should be a part of the development plan, and perhaps a story line involving children could be incorporated in the interpretive materials that connect sites and time periods. Families will also often include individuals with a variety of interests, so cross-interest opportunities are important.
Group Tourism simply refers to activities involving travel for groups of people. A group may number as few as six, may fill a standard motorcoach of 47 passengers, or come in multiples of hundreds and even thousands. Many tourism properties and attractions base their entire businesses on capturing the lucrative group tour market. A subset is meetings and conventions, which demand many of the same facilities, amenities and attractions as leisure tourism even though their primary reason for visiting a destination may be for business reasons.
Not all group tourism is on such a large scale, and often it is targeted to specific interests that the Byway can attract. Family reunions, war and historic event reenactors, motorcycle touring enthusiasts, college outdoor clubs, enthusiasts of all descriptions who may subscribe to special interest journals, belong to clubs and organizations, or attend events especially designed with their interests in mind—these groups constitute a huge market served by magazines, motorcoach (bus touring) companies, museums, and many kinds of retailers and wholesalers.
Who is in the Group Tour Business?
The motorcoach industry prefers (and sometimes demands) enclosed, interior hallway access to rooms (rather than room doors directly to the outside), ADA-compliant facilities, elevators for properties where guestrooms are not all on ground level, and usually at least a three-diamond AAA rating, which indicates a degree of sophistication in furnishings and decor, bath amenities, and above-average comforts in addition to standard cleanliness and functionality.
Motorcoach guests prefer dining in main dining rooms, not in inferior, windowless banquet rooms apart from other guests, as if they were second-class customers.
Comfort facilities should offer multiples of at least three toilets each for men and women, making rest stops hassle- and complaint-free, increasing the satisfaction of motorcoach travelers, thus making a route or destination viable for the group travel industry.
Hofer Tours, Inc. of Plainfield, Illinois, an upscale motorcoach touring company that offers historic Virginia itineraries, says to capture the business of one of its standard 47-passenger motorcoaches, a hotel or motel should have at least 50 rooms, and be within range of a choice of restaurants with seating capacity of at least 100. This indicates to the motorcoach company that the property has the staff to comfortably serve motorcoach patrons while continuing to serve its other retail clientele. Smaller properties can cope with the impact of 47 to 50 visitors arriving at once if they can comfortably break the group into smaller parties, which can be rotated to different stations.
The National Tour Association, an organization of motorcoach companies and tourism industry marketers, teaches motorcoach hosts to implement the “Red Carpet Approach,” which entails actually rolling out a red carpet for arriving guests, and a check list of services and tips that ensure the group’s needs and desires are met or exceeded. Exceeding expectations is the way to build business in this highly competitive marketplace of mid-Atlantic region tourism.
Although many who are only superficially familiar with the group tour industry associate it with busloads of little blue-haired ladies, Sue McGreal and Colleen Stewart, two West Virginia tourism business people who act as receptive operators, planning itineraries and making arrangements within the state for motorcoach companies, say there is growth in demand for smaller “executive” bus tours accommodating up to 24 passengers, and that the growing “boomer” market is interested in itineraries that include time for soft adventure activities in addition to road touring. They will “linger longer,” spending more money in the region if it provides easy access, activities, and comfort.
“The baby boomers want a variety of activities,” McGreal says. “They are action oriented. Snowshoe Mountain Resort has developed such activities as paintball, and action facilities such as a climbing wall, BMX track, skate park, activity center, nature study, and crafts component. The resort is trying to hit every angle it can.” The new, younger motorcoach group tourists are looking for schedules that allow them at least a half-day to pursue their own interests.
Both McGreal and Stewart have also observed growing interest in group tours that focus on a region’s history, folkways, customs, architecture, and lifestyles—in short, heritage tourism. Both providing services such as step-on guides for tours coming in, and organizing and running Byway-specific theme-based tour operations offer opportunities for entrepreneurship along the Byway.
Civil War enthusiasts, colonial and Early American history enthusiasts, rail buffs, amateur genealogists, antique collectors, covered bridge enthusiasts, cavers, ecologists, walkers, runners, birders, seniors, singles, single parents, educational organizations—groups can be sorted into literally hundreds of categories according to their interests, and there is probably at least one organization, journal, Internet site, and touring company that caters to them. In West Virginia, groups of secondary school students studying West Virginia history, and college students studying tourism make up a segment of the specialty group tourism industry worth cultivating.
To build and serve these markets, the tourism organization must know the special interest group’s needs and preferences, provide easy access, specific information and interpretation, and whatever special facilities, equipment or services may be required for access, comfort and convenience. Smart marketers will anticipate specialty groups’ needs and desires, helping them find ways to derive the most and best experience during their stay.
Encouraging, preparing for, and “niche marketing” to promote to those special interest groups who will find what they are interested in along the Byway is an excellent way to increase both numbers of visitors and visitor satisfaction at the same time. By appealing to those tourists who are looking for the authentic experience that the Byway offers we will bring tourists who appreciate and are interested in the unique qualities they will find here.
This section offers a brief summary of types of visitor services available along the Byway, as well as a discussion of some improvements and additional facilities that would be desirable.
Bartow has one older-style mid-level motel, as well as another motel a few miles south on route 93. One family dining restaurant (at the motel) and a grill in Bartow. Rest rooms for customers at restaurants. Brochures and information about attractions at the Greenbrier Ranger Station – brochures available 24 hours, information and ADA rest rooms available during business hours. Some gas stations, convenience store, no supermarket.
Many of the town’s buildings date to the early 20 th century, providing the opportunity for a tourism hub for the Turnpike and Forest Heritage attractions. Some buildings are being refurbished and preserved for use in connection with the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad, a scenic excursion train enterprise that is injecting the area with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. Durbin Outfitters is working with the train and trails to develop tourism opportunities. Grill and gift shops in town. Gas stations, liquor store, and convenience stores. Cheat Mountain Club high-end lodge is several miles out of town.
Two historic Bed & Breakfasts, and a guest home rental, leather goods gift shop near Correctional Center, gas station.
This community is a lively center of local activity. If you go to the Mini Mart restaurant or the Pizza & Sub Shoppe, you get a clear picture of who the locals are and their preferences. One motel, mostly local shopping including grocery store. There’s no pretense or self-consciousness. Businesses here serve the local community and its tastes. A couple of craft stores could be developed to serve the tourism market more.
The Rich Mountain Inn restaurant is newly opened in an historic Tygart Valley Homestead building. Serves standard country fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, geared to local tastes. Has potential to serve the tourist market if developed. Gas station and convenience store, a few local businesses.
The 1790 Town of Beverly is the primary hub of the eastern section of the Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike Byway, and the community that has invested the most effort so far in interpreting the Turnpike and providing Byway information. Its buildings, museums, and collection of historic attractions make it a focal point for visitors. It is easily accessible from Elkins, and is at the trailhead of the Rich Mountain Backway that leads to the Rich Mountain Battlefield. The part of the village that can be seen from the road has quaint aesthetic appeal. It is the natural interpretive center for the Scenic Byway.
Beverly currently has no lodging, but is only six miles from Elkins, which has numerous motels. Beverly has two local diner restaurants, a grocery store, convenience stores and gas stations. Several new businesses have opened in recent years located in historic buildings, with a focus on tourism markets featuring antiques, crafts, gifts, and specialty items. With public awareness of the Byway and promotion of Historic Beverly, an awareness of the growing tourism business is bringing interest in new entrepreneurial opportunities in Beverly.
The Rich Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center, in the historic McClellan's Headquarters building in Beverly, is currently serving as the Byway Visitor Center. Because it also contains offices for RMBF and other organizations, it is staffed year-round and available for Visitor information. It also has an extensive new exhibit on WV Civil War history and the First Campaign, including specifically interpretation related to the Turnpike. Space is limited here though, and the facility can not comfortably serve more than a dozen people at a time. The building is handicapped accessible, but the two small restrooms are not.
Beverly is developing a multi-function Beverly Heritage Center to serve as a Byway Visitor Center, offering interpretation, tourist and group tour meeting space, and accessible public restrooms. Thiscombined use facility in historic buildings in the Beverly Historic District will combine preservation, interpretation, and provision for visitor needs. Interpretation here will focus on turnpike construction and commerce, especially as related to Historic Beverly and the mountain section of the Turnpike, in coordination with the more Civil War specific interpretation, as well as a Appalachian Community Culture exhibit fitting the community into the larger regional context. The Randolph County Courthouse, the Beverly Bank building, the Hill store building, all currently owned by Historic Beverly Preservation, as well as the Bushrod Crawford building owned by RMBF, are being rehabilitated together for this center. The combined facility will provide visitor information, services such as accessible restrooms, and related sales opportunities, in addition to the interpretive offerings.
Historic Beverly is also working together to develop a coordinated Heritage Tourism plan, including preservation, organization, museums and interpretation, and developing sustainable heritage tourism business. The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway can be a key partner in this development, with the Byway Visitor Center as a primary interpretive and visitor service component.
Elkins is not actually on the S-P Turnpike route, but rather on the historic Beverly-Fairmont feeder turnpike. The extension of the S-P Turnpike Byway designation west is routed through Elkins due to the routing of modern roads. Located 6 miles north of Beverly, it is the largest town in the middle of the Byway with currently developed tourism and commercial infrastructure, and has a full-time tourist information center. With a population of approximately 7,500 residents, the town is the home of a small, private liberal arts college, and has been cited as one of the best 100 small arts towns in the United States. It boasts a variety of restaurants, an excellent health foods store, antique and high quality craft shops, and 14 lodging establishments from traditional homegrown and budget chain motels, to quality bed & breakfast inns, to Graceland, the refurbished lavish mansion of industrialist Henry Gassaway Davis, which is an inn and conference center. Elkins will be the most accessible and satisfactory lodging location for most visitors to the eastern half of the Byway, and stands to benefit considerably from Byway development.
Many travelers’ services are available, including an historic hotel, motels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and gas stations. There are many churches, a hospital, and banks. As the County Seat for Upshur County, Buckhannon has a Court House, sheriffs, and lawyers. The West Virginia Wildlife Center is 12 miles south of Buckhannon on Route 20. The Upshur County Historical Society has a small museum and research facility.
Near Weston is Interstate 79 where there are motels and restaurants. In town are three antique stores, a visitor center in the former Weston Colored School, and five restaurants. With its proximity to I 79 and its location near the center of the Turnpike, Weston may serve as a convenient stopping point for through travelers along the route, as well as a gateway for those going east or west. A short distance north of Weston is Jackson’s Mill 4-H Center, which was Jackson’s boyhood home. A few miles south is the Stonewall Jackson Lake and State Park Resort. The Weston State Hospital, an outstanding National Historic Landmark site, is currently undeveloped, but with tremendous potential for tourism impact when successfully restored for adaptive reuse.
Small towns, scenic visitas, and rural landscapes are found along this rural section of the Byway – a truly rural backroads experience. There are a few gas stations and convenience stores, but little in the way of visitor amenities. There are recreation opportunities in Ritchie and Wirt counties – hunting and fishing, and further on in Wirt and Wood counties- fishing and boating along the Hughes and Little Kanawha rivers.
In Parkersburg are many fine restaurants, delis, bakeries, pizza shops, and fast food restaurants. For lodging the Blennerhasset hotel is an upscale historic hotel in the downtown area. There are several chain hotels and motels, as well as Bed & Breakfasts. Other services include banking, gas stations, museums, theaters, entertainment, and recreational facilities. The historic Blennerhasset Island State Park is accessible by boat from downtown. An associated Blennerhassett Museum, and the Oil and Gas Museum are both located downtown. The Trans Allegheny Used Book Store is a unique shopping experience in an outstanding historic building, formerly the Carnegie Library. With its many attractions and location at the western terminus of the Turnpike, Parkersburg is a natural for a gateway and visitor center for the interpretation of the Turnpike and the history of transportation.
Byway identification signage, directional signage, and brochures with directional information help the visitor understand where he or she is, where they are going, and available services such as parking. In person contact at Visitor Centers help visitors feel welcome and answer their questions.
Interpretation in the form of signage, brochures, exhibits, visitor centers, audio, video, and in-person interpretation all highlight the significance of sites and stories along the route.
Increasing visibility of and information emphasis on the Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike Byway can be the unifying element under which various aspects of recreation and touring are organized.
An attractive, interesting, and easily navigated web site is increasingly important in attracting visitors and serving them during their visit. The web site serves image, information, and interpretive functions.
Develop periodic hub communities with a concentration of attractions and services in one locality. Durbin, Beverly and Elkins are the logical hubs on the eastern Byway, and Buckhannon, Weston, and Parkersburg in the west.
Further develop attractions and coordinate hours open to customers along the Byway and in the hub communities.
Package attractions and offer tours that help visitors easily find and experience what interests them.
Create opportunities for development and marketing of a variety of quality heritage art and craft items attractive to guests. Tie in development and presentation of cultural resources of the Byway with providing sales opportunities of benefit both to the local producers and to the traveling public looking for uniquely appropriate shopping opportunities. Training seminars in creation, production and marketing could help educate potential crafters regarding market potential. Development of a handicraft gallery possibly organized as a producer co-operative, can present heritage crafts as a cultural resource in a venue that can sustain operations and create income opportunities.
Encourage development of new lodging and dining establishments, and encourage existing establishments to be more aware of advantages of offering quality and variety for the tourist market.
Build a coordinated program to promote Byway businesses. Such a program could combine business membership in the Byway organization, quality control review and approval to use the Byway logo on business signage and literature, technical assistance for improving the business offered as a service by the Byway organization, suggestions for signage design that would coordinate with the Byway image, and promotion in Byway brochures and services advertising.
Increase visitor conveniences such as more public and handicapped accessible restroom space. This is important in the hub communities, along the Byway, and at the more isolated sites.
Create facilities and services for motorcoach groups including “red carpet treatment” for stops in Durbin, Beverly, Buckhannon, Weston, and Parkersburg. Develop facilities for larger groups, meetings, and events to hold activities.
Address the high traffic problem on U.S. 250/219 through Beverly that makes it difficult and potentially unsafe for pedestrians to cross the road in town. Ensure safe road crossings on U.S. 250 in Durbin as well, and other locations where pedestrians will be present.
Develop off-road parking and comfort stations for recreational vehicles at approximate 35-mile intervals along the byway. These could be in the vicinity of Bartow or Durbin, Beverly, and Mabie or Norton, in the east, and Buckhannon, Weston, Troy, Smithville, and Parkersburg in the west.
Attractions can be packaged together in promotion, tours, and shared ticket packages based on three different ideas. All can be appropriate for use on the Byway.
Packaging of similar cultural attractions together helps to create the scale of attraction to draw visitors interested in that theme. It will appeal to and help serve the tourist who is highly motivated in that interest. For instance, interpreting and promoting the Civil War sites together improves the experience and the story context by presenting a whole campaign instead of just one site, and it offers a combined attraction that will draw Civil War tourists from some distance away to see, where an isolated site might not.
Another approach is to package different types of cultural attractions together, such as a tour that visits both heritage sites and natural sites. This appeals to those with incidental interests in any one type of attraction, such as many getaway travelers and families. By offering and encouraging a variety of experiences, we can give a boost of interest by introducing visitors to the new and unexpected.
The third type of package combines cultural attractions with non-cultural products or services – for instance lodging, restaurant, shopping coupons combined with the attraction visit. Many businesses can participate in this approach to both attract customers and help offer them improved satisfaction with their visit. Promotions or tours by modern industries could be packaged along with related-theme heritage tours. Special events offer another excellent opportunity for attractions and services combined and promoted together.
Tours of various types offer an excellent way to package attractions and serve visitors. Self-guided tour brochures can be based on themes, activities, or logical driving routes of varying length. Guided tours either by a tour guide or costumed interpreter can be offered at individual sites or for a more extended tour, either regularly scheduled or by appointment. Specialty tours to experience unique activities or out-of-the-way places can be an unusual but exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs or outfitters. And many bus tour companies will want availability of local step-on guides to present the local resources to their group.
Development of planned tour itineraries; brochures, trained quality tour guides, and tour opportunities are all recommended projects for the Byway.
In order to attract and please tourists, the first requirement is that they find attractions that they want to see and experience. Demand will ultimately drive future development of facilities and attractions along the scenic byway, but anticipation of needs of the most desirable markets can hasten and increase that demand while ensuring greater visitor satisfaction and a truly viable tourism industry.
The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance could use the excellent American Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia as a model and fountainhead of themes that could be further explored and developed. The road reaches across America’s first frontier to the historic town of Parkersburg, just across the Ohio River from what was once the Northwest Territory. The road is a natural unifying connection between time periods and developments that dramatically tell the story of American exploration, political struggle, ingenuity, and industrialization.
Staunton’s American Frontier Culture Museum was conceived as part of the American bicentennial celebration by an international group interested in demonstrating the several strands of history woven into the fabric of American settlement. Buildings from actual family farms in regions of Germany, Northern Ireland, and England that contributed heavily to American settlement have been transported to the museum, existing a short walk from an 1853 Shenandoah Valley farmstead. The museum, located just off Interstate 81, is open every day of the year except Christmas and New Year’s, serving approximately 80,000 tourists each year. Interpreters at each of the farms actually take care of the animals, do farm chores, and engage in continuing research about lifestyles in the regions, and local immigration to America.
Living history demonstrations similar to those at the Frontier Museum, either as special events or as full-time attractions where feasible, make an exciting and popular way of presenting historic sites and cultural folkways to the public. Stops along the Scenic Byway can be developed to each tell its story in exciting ways. Union and Confederate soldiers could maintain encampments. Native American villages and campsites can be interpreted, as well as early settlement forts and cabins. An early farmstead could be interpreted with original buildings, such as those dating back to 1806 that still stand on the property of the Cardinal Inn. The town of Beverly can offer walking tours, historic home tours, museums, shops, and activities focused on a mid-19th century market town; while Durbin can offer buildings, attractions, and shops illustrating an early-20th century lumbering town. Smithville, Mill Creek and Frank can also be interpreted as examples of different early 20th century industrial complexes. The Tygart Valley Homesteads offer a well-preserved example of a 1930s New Deal community. The interconnecting stories of the families who settled the region and created its history are great material for entertaining displays and updated forms of historic drama (as employed at the Frontier Museum) that emphasize authenticity while also offering entertainment.
Transportation between sites or at specific stops could include a variety of vehicles and modes of travel such as stagecoach or wagon travel with stops at genuine stagecoach taverns and hostelries; or rides along the turnpike in an antique car; scenic railroads that take visitors into the wilds of Pocahontas and Randolph Counties providing glimpses into old cultures and ancient wilderness landscapes; hiking and biking between sites and along backroads and previously abandoned sections of the turnpike, as well as on cross-country mountain trails and rail-trails.
With creative development and interpretation, while retaining an emphasis on authenticity and maintaining the original fabric of the communities, the entire Scenic Byway could become an exciting and unique interactive museum of time periods.
Development of these themes and materials could provide entrepreneurial opportunities and employment for people in the creative arts, crafts, administration, marketing, and support services. Both developing and operating the sites and attractions, and the businesses that serve the visitors, offer economic community development opportunities for the Byway communities.
Communities along the byway would be encouraged to view their communities, architecture and culture through the prism of visitors to whom it is interesting and unique. One possibility for a unified approach would be through a single not-for-profit corporation that provides development capital, administrative and marketing support services. A single cooperative entity could provide the critical mass necessary to make a substantial economic impact, and provide not only for the development of first-rate visitor services but for an employment structure that could support insurance and benefits for full-time workers, an interesting array of part-time jobs, valuable experiences for people entering the job market, and internship opportunities in marketing and management for students pursuing careers in professional hospitality, tourism, and related fields such as historic preservation.
With cooperative planning, focusing on authenticity, and appealing to visitors who prize this cultural experience, increased tourism can be encouraged which will bring economic benefits and jobs to the community, while avoiding and minimizing the negative aspects tourism development that over-commercialization and lack of respect for the local culture have produced in some areas. The broadening of perspectives is one of the benefits of cultural tourism. By resurrecting or preserving historic elements important to the foundation of various communities along the Byway and using them as the motifs for design of future facilities and attractions, their protection and conservation could enhance both the visitor’s experience and the quality of life for the contemporary communities.
The entire Byway has been designated and promoted nationally as the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike National Scenic Byway. Visitors can buy one ticket to all or sets of attractions along the Byway at terminals such as Staunton and Monterrey, Virginia; Bartow, Durbin, Beverly, Elkins, Buckhannon, Weston, and Parkersburg.
A coordinating private non-profit corporation administers employee benefits and programs for some attractions, and marketing, planning, development and fundraising for the Byway as a whole. Uniform days and hours of operation are established and maintained for SPT sites along the byway and backways. This STP Alliance plans and promotes year round activities along the Byway, cooperatively staffing museums and sites critical to the interpretation of the route.
A wide variety of touring and attraction options are available, designed to accommodate tourists’ budgets ranging from modest to lavish. From backpackers to luxury inns, each visitor can find the unique mix of experiences that suit his interests.
Drivers can explore the Byway at their own rate, stop at the scenic overlooks and interpretive waysides, and listen to exciting audio tapes interpreting the life along the Byway as they drive. For those that prefer a guided tour experience, dynamic trained tour guides offer small or large group tours along the Byway and for specific sites.
With transportation history as a major theme, tourists are offered a variety of transportation options to experience. They can book various kinds of passage on sections of the Turnpike, depending upon the desired length of their excursion and their budget. First class would be a plush ‘cadillac’ stagecoach drawn by four to six horses. Other classes could involve buckboards or wagons typical of the mid 19th century. Excursion trains probe into the wooded wilderness, or take visitors on a day trip from Elkins to Beverly & Dailey. Antique automobile rides also explore selected backways. Bicycle touring companies lead multi-day tours along safe bike paths developed near the byway and its backways. Horseback riders, mountain bikers, and hikers can all be found along sections of the byway and backroads. Natural and outdoor recreation opportunities are available through the Monongahela National Forest, as well as at a variety of other sites along the Byway.
Tourists can stop for a meal or overnight lodging at such authentic stagecoach taverns as Traveler’s Repose at Bartow, the Coach House at Staunton-Gate near Weston, and a variety of other rehabilitated historic properties.
Excellent arts and crafts are available in shops all along the byway, with emphasis on period crafts appropriate to each community. One might be a major craft community at Dailey, formerly Eleanor Roosevelt’s planned Tygart Valley Homestead community. Finely crafted furniture made of local hardwoods, pottery, leather items, and other quality items are available here or by order. A craft school also operates here, teaching quality craft production techniques. The Homestead is interpreted with an exhibit center and driving tours. Waitresses in the restaurants are dressed in 1930s attire. A restaurant and evening entertainment area features menus and music reminiscent of this period.
At Beverly, the Beverly Heritage Center is a Byway Visitor Center interpreting the Civil War history of the Turnpike as well as Appalachian Community Culture. A variety of historic buildings are open as craft and antique shops, museums, or for activities. Many venues offer interpretation and sales opportunities together, such as the Lemuel Chenoweth House and Antiques featuring the famous local bridgebuilder. Historic buildings feature working craftspeople, who both demonstrate and sell their wares. The Logan house research library also interprets Turnpike construction and surveying. The historic 1808 Courthouse interprets early Beverly history, and the David Goff house the Beverly Union Hospital. Rehabilitated meeting space in town can be used to accommodate special events, meetings and small conventions, family reunions, along with theatrical events, traditional music and dancing A historic Inn and theme restaurants serve visitors in traditional style. Public comfort facilities are available here as well as central offices for the Staunton -- Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance.
Confederate soldiers at Camp Allegheny or Camp Garnett, Union soldiers at Fort Boreman, Cheat Summit or Rich Mountain will share their camp experience with the visitors, and show them a first-hand tour of the site. Battles and larger-scale reenactments are held as special events on a regular basis.
The impressive Weston State Hospital is rehabilitated as a multi-use site providing extensive economic development opportunities, plus museums including transportation, Civil War, and social service and mental health themes.
The authentic backroads experience on the drive between Weston and Parkersburg features interpreted stops sharing tales of settlement and commerce, underground railroad, Civil War conflict and industrial development. Rural farms line the roadside, while accessible woodlands offer recreational access. Restaurants, shops, and Bed & Breakfasts have developed in some of the rural Byway communities, providing jobs and opportunities for local residents. Communities all along the Byway reap the economic benefits of a well-marketed tourism industry.
(1) “West Virginia: 1998 DKS&A Domestic Travel Report,” prepared for West Virginia Tourism, D. K. Shifflet & Associates, Ltd, Aug. 1999